Tag Archives: Occupy

Explaining American Politics To Non Americans – Part III: The Democratic Party

And so we’re back, dear readers, with another installment of “Explaining American Politics to Non Americans”, in which yours truly attempts to guide you through the strange, savage, and unforgiving terrain of our nation’s government. Today we cover the other side to our two-party system: the Democrats.

Democrats are, like it or not, usually seen as the good guys by plenty of folks out there in the wide world. More diplomatic, less rapaciously capitalistic, more secular, less imperialistic, and so on.

Or so the image goes.

But is that reputation an accurate one?

The answer might surprise you.

No, It’s Not

Okay, I guess that wasn’t really a surprise.

I’ve made no secret of my contempt for the president and my fundamental issues with liberalism in general. But my own irritations aside, the facts must be faced- Democrats aren’t the glorious heroes that the world (or they) imagine them to be.

Let me break it down here.

Democrats Are Still Incredibly Right-Wing

And that’s going to be weird for a lot of the world. Pretty much everywhere else on the planet, there’s a comparatively broad range of political discourse, though even relatively conservative parties still tend to endorse free(ish) healthcare and education. The Democrats seem to get mistaken as being simply an American version of what many beyond our borders take for granted- a center-left party advocating universal healthcare, free education, environmental protection, and championship of the poor and working class.

That’s just not how it is.

First, let’s start with healthcare.

Don’t get me wrong- there are plenty of vocal liberals within the party (we’ll get to them in a second) who advocate the principles I mentioned above, the party has more often than not capitulated to these demands, rather than having fought for ’em.

The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, as it’s more commonly called, serves an example of this. While it’s absolutely an achievement (credit where credit is due), it’s about as far as possible from the systems used elsewhere in the world.

Now I’m not going to presume to know where you’re coming from, dear readers (Canada and Northern Europe tend to be big hits for us here at CWR), but I’m guessing that wherever it is, you enjoy some degree of universal healthcare. Chances are that you’re healthcare system is subsidized through hefty taxes, if not owned outright by the state. The present state of healthcare in the good ol’ US of A, however, works like so:

Since Obamacare’s legislation, all Americans are simply required to “have” health insurance. While certain points of the law keep insurance companies from preventing people with pre-existing conditions from getting service, these are all still private companies. Some programs exist to assist the extremely poor in getting some assistance in paying for insurance, but most everyone has to pay for it on their own (and it is not cheap, folks).

Does you cell phone bill equal about half of your rent? ‘Cuz that’s about how an insurance plan actually costs…

And that’s it. The hallmark of healthcare reform in this country.

The end. Continue reading

The Stupid Stops Here

Life is a lot like a dairy pasture, in that you can’t get from one side to the other without wading through some serious bull****.

Existence is full of little irrationalities and absurdities, and we’ve got to be able to shrug them off if we’re going to maintain any sanity. That said, every once in a while we’re going to come across a steaming load of stupidity too gigantic to ignore.

Let me show you what I’m talking about:

This “12-Week” Fetus Model

I’ve probably got as many conservative friends on Facebook as I do liberal and leftist (liberal and leftist being two separate categories), so every once in a while I’ll catch something on my news-feed mocking the president, or gun control, or over-regulation. And I don’t have any issue with that. What I do take issue with is what popped onto my screen yesterday morning:

This photo claims that this is what a 12-week fetus looks like.

Let me be clear as possible.

No, it ****ing doesn’t. Continue reading

What Do You Want From Me?

As this Sunday draws to a close, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable chorus of “So… what did you do over the weekend?” I’ll be encountering at work. I’ll be giving the same answer I always give:

“Nothing.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. I slept in, did a little reading, cleaned up my house, shopped for groceries, and surfed the web a bit. Barring the occasional oil change on my car, that’s pretty much all I do.

And for some reason, people take issue with that. I really and truly can’t count the number of times I’ve been called “old.” “You’re the oldest 22 year old I know.” “Your idea of fun… it’s like a 50 year old’s.” “You’re like an old man.”

Continue reading

Culture, Not Criteria

Earlier today Evan sent me a link to a documentary on YouTube dealing with the subject of “hacktivists,” or more specifically, the rise of internet mischief and mayhem group “Anonymous.” For the most part, the movie was decent enough, though of course it wasn’t without its own agenda and a there are a few misconceptions resulting from that. But this post isn’t going to be a review. Rather, it’s going to launch off from an interesting phenomena I saw throughout the documentary- and that was the way people talked about Anonymous.

See, whenever people talk about the group, they usually have to veer off into a parenthetical speech where they try to explain just exactly who these guys are, and how at the same time they can be anybody, because anybody can be “Anonymous.” The end result is that they wind up sounding like a paranoid schizophrenic or conspiracy theorist, and the explanation itself doesn’t sound all that believable. After all, how can any individual or group take on the mantle and conduct whatever hacking or pranking or ranting they do against their enemies without some leadership? How do they do anything if they have no demands or agenda?

The problem here (and elsewhere, but we’ll get to that in a minute) is that a completely wrong lens is being used to look at the group. People are looking for structure or goals- the two things that usually define any collection of people, and that’s where it falls apart. Anonymous isn’t a group, it’s an idea. It’s a culture.

Now that sounds strange, but bear with me here.

What’s a conservative?

You probably have an image in your head right now. You can probably tell me what a conservative would think about a certain issue, or how he or she would act in a certain scenario, or the general value system one might have, but if I really pushed you for criteria, my guess is that you wouldn’t be able to give me one. After all- there are varying ideas of “conservatism,” and no real defined boundaries. You’ll find conservatives who state that the “religious extremists” have a skewed view of conservative values, and those same extremists offer the exact same criticism of those wimpy fiscal conservatives. Regardless of the specifics, once you stand back, both groups do fit neatly into the category of “conservative.”

Now apply the same general lens to Anonymous.

What’s “Anonymous”? It’s not a group with an ideology- it’s an ideology with a group, or rather, a whole bunch of groups. Consensus isn’t made through secretive discussion boards or by a clandestine collective of angry computer-geeks. Consensus isn’t made at all- actions simply stem from a general set of perspectives and ideas (the most major of which is freedom of speech and opposition to censorship) held by the adherents. Anonymous doesn’t exist as a coherent, structured group anymore than any culture or subculture exists as a coherent, structured group. Sure you’ve got your major players, and you’ve got various projects or movements within, but at the end of the day, there’s no list of demands, just a set of values.

The reason I bring this up is that this kind of organic organization is becoming more and more prevalent in our culture, the most notable example perhaps being the “Occupy Movement.” Critics of the movement, in its early days, continually parroted the protest of “But what do they want?“- the issue with that being that there was no, and never could be, any list of demands. Occupy wasn’t a structured or unified group- it was, like Anonymous is, a culture. A massive number of people sharing (and developing) certain common perspectives and values and then taking actions based on those views (those actions further developing those views, and so on ad infinitum). Trying to get demands out of Occupy protestors would’ve been about as fruitful as trying to get demands out of conservatives. You’re going to get conflicting specifics, even if there is a general set of guiding principles.

And of course, there are others out there. Though there’s no real term or name for it yet, there’s a rising “Manly” culture, comprised of elements of survivalists, masculinists, and guys who debate each other on-line about how to build porches and properly maintain classic muscle cars. Now I can’t claim to know the origin of this- perhaps it’s partly a reaction against our increasing dependence on technology, perhaps it stems from our powerlessness in a time of political and economic hardship- but either way, it is a growing culture based in principals of independence, self-sufficiency, self-control.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the general philosophies and ideas of the trans-humanists, futurists, utopians, geeks, nerds, and people who worship the ground Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson walk on. Those who view technology as being the solution to most, if not all, human ills, and eagerly await the day when you can get a free jet-pack when you go in for your cancer vaccine.

Now why bring any of this up?

Because it’s important.

We’re currently breaking away from the liberal/conservative paradigm, and we’re going to need to understand what else is out there. This isn’t to say that we’ve only had conservative and liberal cultures- that simply isn’t true. But we can’t deny that there has been, over the past decade, developments of new value-systems which are really neither here nor there. New and alternative views for what the world ought to be, and how you ought to be in it. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on dissecting these various concepts, so be sure to stop by next Monday for my examination of “Manly” culture.

Evan and Gordon Talk: The Greatest Flaw of This Generation [Continued]

EVAN: Last week Gordon and I discussed the greatest flaw of this generation, and discussed apathy, laziness, entitlement, and creative bankruptcy. Deciding that we had much more to work with, Gordon left us with this question last week, which heads this continuation of the topic:

““Do we want to be good, or do we just want to look good?”

GORDON: I’m not entirely sure I can come up with any swift dismissal of this possibility, I mean- look at the world we live in. Do we believe in being environmentally and socially conscious? Absolutely. But to what extent? I mean, we’ll chuck our soda cans in the recycling, but are we gonna picket Monsanto?

Are we really just observing these “little” things because they’re expected of us? Do we actually care one way or another?

EVAN: As far as recycling goes, we do that in Canada because it’s the law. Looking good only has so much to do with it.

If we want to go with the example of, say, giving a few dollars towards an environmental organization [or maybe because the fundraiser was cute], that works a little more maybe. It at least contrasts with picketing/protesting. I think we care, but maybe not enough? That’s if we’re quantifying “care” now by the actions that it results in.

GORDON: Is it, perhaps, that we’re cynical? Do we as a generation ultimately despair of the effectiveness of any method of change? Is the reason we’re unable to really go the distance when it comes to our causes because we think it’s all just in vain?

EVAN: Do we think it’s all futile? I mean, we’re certainly led to believe that to some extent. To focus on environmentalism, the extent of the destruction to this earth is growing ever closer to irreversible, and we’re made aware of this.

As far as documentaries and the like go, however, we are told over and over that what we do does indeed matter. Being conscious about how we spend our money and that sort of thing.

GORDON: That’s what we’re told, but then again, the creators of such documentaries are overwhelmingly members of older generations.

Look at the Occupy Movement, for example.

People were there from all demographics, but more than anyone else it was the youth- our generation. Despite massive popularity, that venture ultimately met its death under the boot heels of riot cops and a fog of pepper spray.

It’s been about a year since it all started, and the situation is the same, yet there’s really no push for any resurrection of the movement or even for any major protest at all. Have we given up? We’re all the same people- we have all the same drives and values- have we simply despaired of peaceful protest?

EVAN: It’s funny you should say that, since just yesterday former protesters gathered in a park in Toronto to call attention to the movement that happened a year ago.

That aside, maybe you can explain what exactly happened as the movement petered out. It’s somewhat well-known that the weather was a large contributor to those occupying various streets and cities, but what else led to its collapse. Was it simply fatigue?

GORDON: I’d blame massive crackdowns on the part of the mayors of the occupied cities- let’s not forget that mayor Jean Quan pretty much turned Oakland into a warzone. Injured a protesting war vet so badly most folks thought he was going to become the first casualty of the movement (he pulled through, fortunately).

EVAN: This sort of all falls back to a point I made in relation to apathy our first attempt at this topic. That people care, but simply don’t feel like stepping outside their comfort zones. I realize that this may seem like a ludicrous thing to say in the face of the Occupy Movement, but I feel that the vast majority of youth, our generation, don’t want to do what it takes.

They, we, value comfort too much.

GORDON: I’m gonna have to second that theory.

I remember back when I was in college, going door-to-door trying to get students to boycott various unethical companies [Coca-Cola, Nike] doing business on campus. I was amazed at how many people would nod their heads and smile and agree with each and every word out of my mouth until I called on ’em to stop buying those companies’ products.

Guts. We got none. Difficulty with the concept of actual sacrifice, you know?

EVAN: And the refreshing taste of Coca-Cola is the very basest of comforts. If we can’t part with a caffeinated beverage we’re into, then what can we do?

I’ve joined in your personal boycott of the company, and although it can be a little difficult, it’s certainly nothing compared to being beaten by batons as I march on Parliament.

GORDON: Is that it then? Are our values just skewed ever so slightly in favor of immediate gratification? Do we prefer keeping our skulls in once piece over bread and freedom?

EVAN: History would say: yes. At least until things reach a certain point. Until we realize that being comfortable doesn’t outweigh what we put up with to get that comfort.

GORDON:  So what’s the word for this?

EVAN: To put it simply would be “laziness,” and we both know it’s more than that.

GORDON: “Over-Attachment,” perhaps?

EVAN: “Comfort-Loving”?

GORDON: “Hesitation”? “Looking back towards Sodom”?

EVAN: Looking back towards Sodom assumes that they’re actually doing something.

GORDON: It’s a fear- a very specific kind of fear. The kind where you “choke” just before doing something major.

EVAN: I’m going to say there’s probably something in French or German for that, but since we’re writing this in English we’re pretty limited in our options.

GORDON: Can we make one up?

EVAN: Heh. I don’t see why not.

How about . . . “Statusquophilia.”

GORDON: “Fluxophobia”?

EVAN: Haha, I like how we went different directions with our Greek roots.

GORDON: As do I. Shall we have the readers vote?

EVAN: Sounds good to me, and we should be wrapping things up anyway. Want to summarize how we got here?

GORDON: Ultimately, o readers, it all comes down to this. The great and terrible flaw of our generation- from what we’ve discussed- is not a sin of commission. We are not entitled, we are not lazy, we are not without our values. Our fault is in what we lack the guts to be good, the balls to be bad. In short, the unwillingness to part with what we have for the chance to attain something more. We’re trapped in a dance with the devil we know.

EVAN: Vote for the terminology you like more. “Statusquophilia,” meaning a love for things as they are, or “Fluxophobia,” meaning, in this case, a fear of sacrifice.

GORDON: For next week’s topic, we’ve got: Zombies- Are We Beating a Dead Horse At This Point?

EVAN: Or what is going on with all the wars on television? I’m referring to programs like “Storage Wars” and the like. Real wars are happening, I realize this.

GORDON: And with that, people of the interwebs, we are out of time- make sure to vote for your preferred word as well as the topic for next week, and be sure to check out our new “Fame/Shame Day” feature!

Evan and Gordon Talk: The Greatest Flaw of This Generation

GORDON: Ladies and gentlemen- this is your captain speaking. After some unavoidable delays we will finally be taking off into our mid-week discussion. Our topic for today is “What’s the greatest flaw of this generation?”(This generation being those born in the late 80s to mid 90s: “The Millennials,” “Generation I”, “Gen Y”- call us what you will).

EVAN: As I mentioned in the news update, we scrapped our conversation last night, largely because it became cyclical. To be more specific, we ended up going back and forth between apathy and cowardice, with one leading back to the other and so on.

GORDON: But let’s widen the picture a bit. While apathy is the go-to criticism many have, also up there for our generation’s flaws is our alleged “sense of entitlement.” Thoughts?

EVAN: If we’re still going with your incredibly broad age range, then yes, I definitely think that a lot of kids these days feel a sense of entitlement. It’s just the norm now to have wireless internet, a phone, the latest iGadget, etc. They’re just expected, the new given.

GORDON: Is that fair, though? I mean- haven’t we assumed that phones, indoor toilets, and electricity are “the norm” since they were first invented?

EVAN: To a point, though, some of what you listed are basic necessities. I’d argue that indoor plumbing is considered much more standard than an iPad.

GORDON: This is true, but I don’t think our generation- barring the handful of people who actually do feel entitled- views the iPad or any specific item as being “standard”- it’s the interconnection that’s the norm, as well as the expectations for new technology.

I mean, back in the day you didn’t need light bulbs. But if they’re mass produced, and safer than gas-lamps, then it just stands to reason that we’d eventually come to expect them.

But of course technology’s only one element. what about the idea that this generation is “entitled” in the sense that they get to “find themselves” or “focus on their art” or whatever hipster euphemism is being used to say “part-time employed”?

EVAN: Do I think that people feel they deserve the right to do more than just hit the ground running after college, get right down to the ol’ nine-to-five? I mean, yeah.

But I think this brings up a point I made yesterday about the “where” of our question. In France the age of retirement is 62 and that’s just expected. There are different standards depending on where you live in the world.

GORDON: This is true. I mean, each and every one of us would be considered spoiled brats if we jumped back a hundred years or so.

EVAN: Oh, no doubt. Especially you with your freakishly smooth hands.

GORDON: So would YOU say that the whole “entitlement” criticism stands?

And I use gloves. I refuse to be put down because I take better care of myself.

EVAN: You say that every time, but they’re still as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

GORDON: That means they’re working, and I’ll further have you know that I have a big ol’ scar in my right hand in the shape of a number “7.” But back to the issue-

It doesn’t seem like the “entitlement” bit sticks. Could we be classified as “lazy,” perhaps? The warped and stunted half-humans resulting from government dependence and the welfare state?

EVAN: Well, we discussed “laziness” last night specifically in the context of wanting to change what is clearly a broken system, but is what we’re talking about a general laziness? People just expecting to be spoon-fed?

GORDON: That’s the question. I recall a Cracked.com article in which the author kicked things off by apologizing for helping perpetuate the myth that a college education was a guarantee for a good job. Are we “lazy” in having had the expectation- as most of us had?

EVAN: Well, depending on who you ask, college is hard. In a way, I guess we expect that the hard work we put into maintaining a good GPA, et cetera, will result in finding employment once we’re out in the real world. Which, as I can attest to, is clearly not the case.

GORDON: So is that laziness then? Entitlement mentality?

EVAN: I don’t think that doing hard work and expecting a reward is laziness. That’s like someone working the fields and then being called a layabout because he expected crops to grow. A shaky comparison, I realize.

GORDON: Works for me. And I agree.

Now you yourself have accused us all of being creatively bankrupt. Could that be our major flaw? That we don’t make- we remix?

EVAN: I guess it depends on how we’re working this whole “greatest flaw of our generation” angle. The trend to rehash, remix, et cetera came about recently, but I’m not sure it’s because of us. Or is the question in regards to this day and age we’re in, and not those growing up in it?

GORDON: No, I mean us as an age-group, and that does pretty much answer the question right there. We are, for the most part, not the ones who are making the films and TV shows and music (give or take) of our time- that’s those who came before us.

EVAN: Exactly. Which is why we’re getting stuff like He-Man and Thundercats reboots, because those who were kids in the 80’s have a crippling nostalgia. Music is different, of course, but TV and movies are definitely controlled by the generation before us.

Okay, how about this. Maybe the flaw is our hellish appetite to be entertained.

GORDON: Ooh- interesting take. Expound, by all means.

EVAN: I mean, you’ve talked about the bilge that’s on television countless times. Do you know what we’ve been reduced to? A musical chairs gameshow called “Oh Sit!”

Are we so bored that we’ll watch people play “extreme musical chairs” for an hour?

GORDON: I had no idea that existed. But surely this isn’t the first time in history that TV’s been crap. Or radio, or books, or music, or anything. Think of the “Penny Dreadfuls” back in the Victorian era- little, cheap trashy pulp-fiction novels made for mass consumption. Is that any worse than what we have today? Seems like the bilge is the same- it’s just the media that’ve changed.

EVAN: It may be the same, but it’s being produced at a frantic pace. That change, at least, has to be important.

GORDON: That speaks less to our appetites and more to our efficiency.

EVAN: I’d say that it has just as much to do with our appetites, judging by the content of what’s put out.

GORDON: We’re almost out of time, so let’s hit up some other key issues:

Apathy. As we said before, apathy tends to be the go-to criticism, at least, one of the major ones when it comes to our generation, and I think this is one of the easiest to put to rest. The Occupy Movement, environmentalism, increasing number of social movements, increasing global awareness- you name it. We’re strides ahead of the past couple generations. Heck, I’d go so far as to say we’re the most involved generation since the 60s and early 70s.

Well we’re out of time, and still of plenty of ground to cover- so rather than sloppily close up, we’ll be continuing our discussion next week with a question about hipster morality: “Do we want to be good, or do we just want to look good?” If you have any suggestions or recommendations for topics, don’t hesitate to shoot us a comment.

EVAN: Thanks for reading, and remember that CWR now updates every single weekday. I’ll see you tomorrow in our first ever “Fame Day” post!

The Problem With Protest

I thought today I might address the subject of protest.

At the tail end of last year, I came across this picture posted on Reddit:

Despite an overall positive response to the message, one of the highest ranked comments was a person arguing that the Klansmen, unlike the protestors, had permits to march, while the OWS movements across the nation were illegally squatting. Because they are on private property, it is only right that the police should respond in the ways they do.

I wonder if that person would’ve reacted the same way fifty years ago, when these young men and women were illegally occupying private property.

That’s the Greensboro Four, occupying private property in 1960 in protest of racial segregation. Ought the police to have pepper sprayed them for refusing to leave? The problem with attempting to make out the OWS protestors as criminals who are attacking social order is that this same reasoning has to be applied to criticize the women’s rights movement, the civil rights movement, the abolitionist movement, and so on. Even the men and women of the American revolution would, under this blind obedience to the law, be considered criminals and rioters- even traitors. Trying to pretend that the OWS protestors are nothing but vagrants and lawbreakers simply doesn’t work.

However, even if you can’t call them criminals, you can at least call them crazy.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not always a big fan of the crazy outfits some people will wear to protests to make a point. I don’t think dressing up as the Monopoly guy is really all that effective at communicating the messages you want to make.

You’re already protesting en-masse, the satire might be a little overkill…

I’m not saying that I’m right, maybe a couple zombie-protestors is just what you need to drive home a point of mindless consumerism. And I’m not against people wearing what they want to wear- I think the Guy Fawkes masks a la V for Vendetta are actually pretty effective at empowering people and creating a sense of unity. Nevertheless, you still hear people trying to discredit the movement because they don’t like the way the protestors look.

Is this what we’ve really come to? Because the OWS protestors aren’t clean shaven or wearing suits and ties (zombie bankers excluded), they’re just a bunch of moochers? Since when does nonconformity to a social “norm” suddenly create grounds for disproving someone’s views? You could take Jesus, drop him the middle of Times Sqaure, and if he’s dressed in the same clothes he would’ve worn two thousand years ago, then he’d be written off as some hobo or crazy ex-hippie.

But of course, not all the protestors are dressed like something you’d encounter in a post-apocalyptic carnival. You will find protestors cleanly shaven and dressed in suits and ties (who aren’t zombie bankers). What do we call these people?

Hypocrites- or at the very best, spoiled and privileged college kids. That’s right, dress shabbily, and you’re a bum, dress sharply, and you’re a naive idealist completely detached from reality. That’s not to say that such people don’t exist- I have a tough time accepting “revolutionaries” wearing Nike or buying from Starbucks, but to attempt to label the occupy movement as a bunch of hypocrites because they aren’t living in poverty is crazy. No matter what you do, you’re either an outcast of society or from the cream of society- either way, you’re message isn’t worth hearing. Perhaps the best mockery of this line of thought is this picture here:

This seems to be part of a greater issue with protest that people have- a vicious antipathy towards protest regardless of the content or the method. Let me explain.

A criticism a friend of mine once hurled at the OWS movement was that they “Just don’t do anything. They came, they complained, and now they should go home.” Now you might point out that many of the protestors are at the Occupy camps because they have no homes anymore, or even that one of the actions of OWS protestors is helping evicted families reclaim their homes, but let’s just focus on the protest itself. To some degree he- he and others like him- have a point; there’s only so much marching, chanting, and picketing can do. Take this guy for example:

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Knesset isn’t going to rip down the barrier-walls in the West Bank or put a moratorium on new settlements because this guy demands it. There are very definite limitations to what this kind of protest can do, and as much as it is decried as pointless, do these critics really want to see the alternatives?

 

Let’s talk about civil disobedience hear- still (typically) non-violent, but certainly a step up from rallying. We’re talking about sit-ins, human walls, trespassing, and a host of other activities typically leading to charges of disturbing the peace and disrupting productivity. The kind of actions generally associated with MLK Jr., and his inspiration, Gandhi.

Seductive Gandhi is Seductive…

Of course, there are limits on this as well. For all the disruption a group may cause, there’s always the authorities to contend with- you might recall this particular photo:

There’s a case to be made for civil disobedience, but this does really lead back to the original problem of legality. Even if you want to argue for nonviolent actions against the law, one might point out that this is only effective in a situation where there’s a limit on how much you’ll be beaten, imprisoned, or in cases, even killed. I’m guessing that most people wouldn’t have told Jews, Gypsies, Gays, Socialists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses that civil disobedience would have been the best tactic against the Nazis. Considering that the OWS movement is a form of civil disobedience, one might also simply comment that no effective action is being taken by the protesters.

So what about “direct action”, as certain protestors affectionately call it? Black Bloc tactics. The smashing of windows, the overturning of cars, the setting fire to of public decorations (see the Greek anti-austerity protests), and so forth?

While without a doubt the most confrontational of all the protest methods available to the angry and the frustrated, this is nevertheless the single most universally condemned tactic, even by those who are supportive of the goals in question. “The Black Bloc protestors discredit the movement!” you hear over and over. From the latest NATO or G20 conference clear back to the so-called “Battle in Seattle”, you can hear the authorities railing against these “hooligans” and “rioters” and even the major figures of the protest pleading for non-violence.

 

And while the destructive methods employed by the more extreme elements of any protest are attacked, ranking in a close second in ridicule is on-line petitioning, Facebook sharing, and a host of other activities shoved under the umbrella pejorative of “Slacktivism”. The past “Kony 2012” campaign, while certainly questionable in its content, seemed to receive the majority of criticism by those who viewed the young people involved as arm-chair activists; at best, misled college kids caught up in the latest cause célèbre; at worst, lazy and entitled brats on a tier lower than the Occupy hipsters.

Now let’s take a step back and look at all of this. Marching- doesn’t work. Civil disobedience- either illegal or still ineffective. Violence- something to be avoided at all cost. Petitions- worse than marching. Added all together, the only acceptable option for people who believe that the system no longer works seems to be abandoning that belief. At this point, we really have to consider the idea that the issue isn’t with how people protest, but with protest itself. That these criticisms are all just rooted in the deeper reaction against public disturbance. There is an element of society who, when asked what action we should take, simply respond “don’t take action!”. Regardless of how you present yourself, or what you do, or to what extremes you do or do not go to- they will always be opposed.

And as disheartening as that might seem- there is positive flip-side to this.

If you just can’t please these people, why bother trying? With the fact in mind that there’s always going to be someone scowling from the sidelines, you’re free to do whatever you want to convince those who are actually willing to listen. If that’s not comforting, I don’t know what is.